As many of you will remember and as this thread records, back in 2010 I launched the Frances Coles Memorial Appeal 2010.
This was publicised on Facebook, the message boards at Casebook and JTR forums, as well as at the 2010 Conference. The intention of this was to provide a grave marker at the East London Cemetery either on or close to the location of Coles’ currently unmarked pauper’s grave. As may be recalled, the thinking behind this was that those with an interest in the Whitechapel Murders and who wished to show their respects at the gravesides of the various victims should have the opportunity to do so, as is regularly the case at the burial sites of the so called ‘canonical’ victims of Jack the Ripper.
Through donations and various events around the 2010 Conference weekend, a total of £766.83 was raised by the time that the last contribution was was collected, as can be seen from an earlier post on this thread.
Unfortunately since then, the matter has become increasingly difficult due to logistics involving various authorities and in particular PayPal. As I have previously discussed, in hindsight my eagerness to implement a good idea got ahead of me and I certainly should have ensured that all admin matters were in place, permissions were sought etc, before proceeding to starting the appeal. Although the idea came from a good place, I certainly wouldn't consider doing anything like this again.
As a result, over the following years two major issues have arisen - a significant sum from that raised has been inaccessible to me, and the original intention has proved impossible to fulfil. As I expect most people can imagine, this has been a rather stressful situation to be living with and attempting to find a solution to for the past approximately five and a half years. I also fully accept and apologise for the fact that it has no doubt also been very frustrating for those who donated to the appeal and hoped to have seen a conclusion long before now. Nevertheless, for the most part people have been very patient and understanding with the matter, perhaps more so than I deserve, for which I am grateful.
Over the last few days, however, I have become aware that there has been a lot of talk about the appeal and its status from various quarters and it seems that a time has arisen where I need to bring it to a conclusion, even if this may not (sadly) satisfy the original intentions. It would of course be possible for me to continue to pursue the original intention, but as this would be likely to take a significant period once more and given the recent upsurge in interest in the matter, I feel that even a compromise would, all things being equal, hopefully be regarded by most people as more satisfactory than another six months or so of me saying ‘I hope to have this concluded soon’.
To this end, I have decided that the full final sum of £766.83 will be donated in the name of the Frances Coles Memorial Appeal to ‘Housing for Women’ (hfw.org.uk, registered charity number 211351). I will be making up a proportion of this amount from my own pocket to cover that which remains inaccessible to me, but am happy to do so as it feels like the right thing to do.
‘Housing for Women’ has been operating since the 1930s and in its early days was also strongly linked to the suffragette movement (a topical reference both with regards to the East End, and recent events surrounding certain case-related activities). They provide assistance with housing for vulnerable women across London, including in Bermondsey where Frances was born and lived for most of her life. In fact, HFW feels very much like one of the organisations which, had they existed back in the late Victorian period, would have hopefully been able to help women like Frances and the other Whitechapel Murder victims, amongst many other unfortunate women whose names have not passed down into history in such a grisly context.
More information can of course be found on their website, the address for which is listed above.
If anyone who donated to the appeal feels that they hold strong objections to their contribution going towards this particular charity's work then I would be happy to discuss this with them, but I would ask that this be done privately (either through private messages here, or email if you have my details). I would like to think that most people would agree this is a satisfactory end to what has unfortunately become a regrettable episode, however. Assuming there are no major objections, I will be sending the donation off within the next few days, but it seems only fair to give a short period of notice first.
I will of course update people on progress along this path, and I am both hopeful and confident that we will finally see a positive end to the matter soon. Finally for now, I would like to say thank you to all those who supported the appeal whether through donations or encouragement and also to thank the vast majority who have demonstrated levels of good faith and patience which I could not have expected.
Further to discussions elsewhere today, I would like to clarify several points as it seems that there was some confusion.
To be clear, people have had the opportunity through threads on here and on jtrforums, and in various parts of Facebook, to express their wishes - I believed this was explicit in my original statement and this is why I left a short period before acting on anything as opposed to simply posting off the money and saying 'this is what I've done'. So far, everyone I have spoken to who donated has been happy with the proposed solution, with one possible exception (I have asked the person concerned to confirm whether they did donate, and if so to arrange a refund for them).
Of course, a lot has happened in 6 years and I simply cannot wait for another 2, 3, 6 months or whatever in the hope of canvassing opinion from everybody. That, as I understood it, was the last thing that anyone wanted. I appreciate people can make up their own mind on whether my solution is satisfactory, but all I can do is try carefully to select one which feels appropriate. It is simply not possible to reimburse every single person individually as some are not even ‘in the loop’ anymore. However, again, I intended to make it clear in the recent statement that the opportunity was there for people to request individual reimbursements if they would rather do so than support the work of Housing for Women. Apologies if that was not clear.
As the vast majority of people who have donated met the news of the intended solution happily, I had planned to post a cheque and cover letter to Housing for Women today. However, it has come to my attention that there are people who are not too happy with the solution proposed by me and they believe that I have not given people the option for their money to be reimbursed if they are not happy for me to donate the money to the proposed charity.
To put everyone's mind at peace, I have delayed sending the cheque for now to give people the chance to request a refund. So to be clear, this will happen on Monday for an amount totalling that remaining after anyone who wishes to do so has contacted me for a refund. If anyone wishes to do so, they have until Monday to contact me. It makes no difference to me whether it is refunded or donated, except that the latter would at least do some good.
I am positive in saying a lot of people seem pleased about the solution suggested. So the next postings you will see from me will be updates on progress moving forwards, with appropriate documentation/ images of course.
Please find attached scanned copies of the letter and cheque, and a photograph of the proof of postage for my postage to Housing for Women today. I am hoping to get a letter acknowledging receipt soon and will of course post that as soon as it is received. I hope this will satisfy the majority that matters are now in hand. As can be seen, I have donated the full amount raised as no one has asked for a refund from last Wednesday to today. If anyone feels they have missed their opportunity to do so then they are welcome to contact me privately and we can discuss that but I am as happy as possible that a reasonable notice period has been given.
All donors I have spoken to have been supportive of this solution and understanding of the issues that have led to this point, for which I am grateful. Of course, I will never be able to satisfy everyone who has an opinion whether that be motivated by genuine concerns or personal histories, and I am just going to have to live with that. I am not blind to the fact that some people may be unhappy with the situation that evolved and all I can do is once more apologise and say that I hope the majority are satisfied with its final conclusion (as they appear to be).
Finally, thank you for those who have offered support during this time.
I am pleased to be able to share the following today. Thank you to everyone who had originally donated and subsequently expressed an opinion on this solution, which was unanimously agreed - as you can see from Mr Melbourne's letter, the donation is very much appreciated and will go towards some fantastic and appropriate work.
This is my last word on the matter, which deserves to end on a positive note.